Shameless in Sacramento

March 29, 2009 • Daily Email Recap

Thanks to Gretchen Pfaff, Director of Communications and Legislation for Californians for Population Stabilization, for sending this OpEd and the one that follows – both by Mark Cromer.

Press Contact:
Rick Oltman
Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS)
415- 215-9550, 805-564-6626

Shameless in Sacramento
California epitomizes a failure in leadership across the nation
By Mark Cromer

Big Brother now has a fourth axiom to instill in the masses: Failure is Success.

One could easily add that to the slogans of George Orwell’s prescient 1984, as failure dressed as success is now the stagecraft that’s played out along the halls of power in Washington D.C. and in Sacramento.

Americans have been given plenty of iconic images to populate the nightmare of their financial meltdown: corporate CEOs testifying to their obscene “bonuses,” forests of foreclosure signs that look like tombstones to the American Dream, and the SRO crowds at the unemployment and welfare offices.

But the most grotesque visuals yet to emerge from this crisis have come from our elected leadership, as we have watched the very men and women who drove our car off the cliff now take glorious credit for the desperate and possibly doomed rescue effort.

In spite of the most grim and uncertain atmosphere to grip the nation since the Cuban Missile Crisis, an air of bizarre ebullience can be seen bubbling among legislators in Washington. As the Senate prepared to pass President Obama’s nearly trillion-dollar stimulus bill, majority leader Harry Reid offered effusive and self-congratulatory praise for the senators that wrangled the massive bill to fruition.

Last week in California—the state that has led the nation in the housing collapse and spiraling unemployment—major newspapers ran front page photographs showing Republicans and Democrats appearing downright giddy after they passed a massive tax increase to cover a nearly $50 billion budget deficit.

Given the colossal magnitude of the twin emergency measures, both of which are assuredly ‘Hail Mary’ passes that may fail, one might think the mood in the nation’s capital and the California statehouse would be far more sober, if not downright somber. In fact, considering that it is the same cast of characters from both parties in Congress that allowed gross mismanagement to lead to a series of disasters that spread through America’s financial and housing markets with crippling effect; some contrition might seem appropriate; if not some lowered-head humility.

I think most Americans would like to see some outright shame from our elected officials.

Instead, we were treated to the haughty spectacle of the very people who allowed the crisis to happen on their watch congratulating themselves for their belated and horrifically costly response to this historic catastrophe.

Nowhere is this more surreal than in Sacramento, where a professional political class from both parties—a small cluster of men and women who perennially seek public office for pure self-empowerment—have plunged California into a fiscal crisis so deep and chronic that it may well mark the end of the Golden State’s ability to function as a coherent entity. In real world terms, the state could effectively dissolve into disparate regional zones of relative autonomy, with wildly divergent degrees of law and order.

The state, once the freewheeling (and free thinking) gem of the union, has watched its public school system fail, its prisons fill up, its skilled-labor manufacturing base disappear and its treasury bloat and purge like a bulimic on a binge. California’s real unemployment rate is now cresting toward 20-percent, and yet there is still no demand from Sacramento that the Feds aggressively enforce immigration laws that would remove illegal workers in the state.

The state is now locked in perpetual drought and faces dramatic water use reductions as vital supplies literally dry up; yet the legislators in Sacramento have been whistling past arid reservoirs for years, refusing to spell out a plan for a sustainable population.

And all of this has transpired as California’s population continues to surge, posting explosive growth through illegal immigration even as the state’s native middle class continues its exodus.

Yet in Sacramento, the band has played on as legislators indulge a lavish dance of entitlement, showering themselves with accolades and proclamations as they slaughter what’s left of the fatted pig and divvy up the bacon to feed very select interest groups they rely on for election.

The whole spectacle betrays an air of imperial fiat that has settled over the state capital—and the nation’s capital as well—one that has left the politicians brazen in their self-assessments, demonstrating they are fearless of recrimination for their blatant failures and stunning incompetence amid the vulgarity of their excesses.

And perhaps this offers the surest sign yet as to what the future holds for California and, eventually, the rest of the nation: a dysfunctional state that lords over a teeming population that’s impoverished and restless, yet one that has been conditioned to rely on the government.

By that time perhaps the political elites will be commissioning massive statues of themselves, fitting monuments to the epic failure that had become success.

Mark Cromer is a senior writing fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization.


The OctoMom Syndrome
Millions of ‘parents’ are making babies on society’s tab

By Mark Cromer
Many years ago my mother warned my long-time girlfriend and me: “if you wait until you can afford kids to have them—you’ll never have them.”

Fueled by her desire for grandkids, my mom’s advice was a pointed rejoinder to my social and professional circle’s stubborn insistence on not sacrificing our hard earned upward mobility to a whimsical decision or a cultural expectation to start making babies.

“If your father and I were that self-obsessed,” she said. “You and your brother might not be here today.”


But as the story of Nadya Suleman, the 33-year-old Whittier woman who gave birth to octuplets last week, continues to devolve into a media sideshow, my mother’s critique still resonates for me, as it highlights the fine line in society between selflessness and self-destructiveness.

The rising volume of anger directed at Suleman, an unemployed single mom who underwent fertility treatments and now has a total of 14 children, including the half-dozen kids she spawned before the octuplets, is understandable but misplaced.

Suleman is just an extreme example of the costly and corrosive reproductive malfeasance that far too many parents (a term I apply reluctantly) indulge today—becoming pregnant on a whim with children they can’t afford and all with an expectation that society will foot the bill.

It’s not this single mother of 14 that’s so devastating to our social fabric and public treasury. No, it’s the millions of mothers and fathers—both single and married—that are choosing to have two, three and four children when they clearly can’t afford even one. The real story isn’t Suleman’s bizarre wish to have more children, but rather a society and a government that have little enthusiasm for dissuading economically unsound childbearing.

To the contrary, we now accommodate it at virtually every turn.

While irresponsible baby-making is clearly not limited to any one ethnic or cultural demographic, its impact is indisputably more visible and more damaging in working class communities that have been reshaped by unrestrained immigration.

The public schools on the working class streets of Pomona that I attended more than a generation ago are no longer recognizable as the campuses where I was provided a solid education. The dramatic difference is not merely that the integration and racial balance that Pomona schools had achieved in the 1970s and early 80s has been completely erased, with the Pomona Unified School District student body now approaching 90-percent Latino.

At the schools I attended, which are now packed with nearly twice as many students, more than 90-percent of the children qualify for “free” breakfasts and lunches. The iconic brown bag lunch that my generation’s parents sent us to school with—just like the breakfasts they fed us in our own homes—are long gone. Day care centers for toddlers also abound on these public school campuses, including nurseries at the high schools for the students who are having babies.

Far from carrying a social stigma today, reproduction irrespective of the parents’ socio-economic circumstances seems to be seen either as an act of cultural obligation or something divinely inspired that’s greeted with wide-eyed elation at yet another miracle in diapers. That magical assessment usually seems to vanish by the time the kid is ready for school and is left to become, in many respects, a ward of the state.

As the stigma of having children you can’t afford has vanished, trepidation is fading away to expectation now; the expectation that ‘The Village’—not the family—will pony up to raise the kids.

So as the convulsions continue over Suleman’s staggering feat of gleefully producing 14 children in the absence of a job, a husband and, quite frankly, a future, it might be worth our while to pause for a moment to consider the tens of millions of women and men in America today who are not yet as prolific as Nadya Suleman, but far more catastrophic for this country in aggregate.

Nearly two decades ago, when our parents were agitating for us to give them some grandkids, my girlfriend and I were out of college, well into our professions and living in a house we bought together. We tried to balance the cost of having a child with our relentlessly tight checking accounts. Like so many other couples we knew, we just couldn’t make the numbers work.

We wanted to get ahead and we accepted that desire came with its own set of sacrifices.

I suspect my mom still thinks it was a selfish decision (and it was), but when she sees what’s happening across a California now packed with families and children dependent on the state, I have the feeling she wishes more people had made the same choice.

Mark Cromer is a senior writing fellow with Californians for Population Stabilization.

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